James Ossuary Authentic, Leading Scholar Says

A leading scientist who specializes in ancient inscriptions has announced the results of his study of the James Brother of J Son of Yosef ossuary – the inscription is real and dates to within a few years on either side of James’ death. The overwhelming majority of scientists from several different fields agree. The holdouts are largely employees of the Israel Antiquities Authority, who work under the often tyrannical Shuka Dorfman. But even some of them agree the inscription is real.

Further, the odds of a different James being interred in the James Brother of J Son of Yosef ossuary are incredibly small. In other words, the burial box of a friend and contemporary of Rabban Gamliel the Elder has been found. Truly amazing.



Filed under History, Israel

31 responses to “James Ossuary Authentic, Leading Scholar Says

  1. rebeljew

    He doesn’t answer some of the charges here:

    This is far from “proven authentic”. At best, some of the IAA evidence has been brought to question. The above article examines the box from a practical point of view on the box itself, rather than trying to analyze the box’s environment (ie patina, consistency of the inscription and the box etc.)

  2. S.

    >Further, the odds of a different James being interred in the James Brother of J Son of Yosef ossuary are incredibly small.

    I don’t get that at all. These were three very common names.

  3. Different report. Different scholar. Check the BAR website for many more who hold the ossuary and inscription to be authentic.

  4. S. –

    See the Emmy award winning documentary on the ossuary for the details. (Or wait a bit until I get time to watch it again and post all the details.) But this assertion is made and supported with what seems to be good science and research.

  5. rebeljew

    But the matter is still disputed. There is no new evidence here. The same scientists are pro and con as were before. The BAR has always been pushing authenticity.

  6. Sure – except BAR has a lot of big names on its side. The IAA does not, and the IAA’s own experts are conflicted, with the better known supporting BAR.

  7. Uzziahu

    “See the Emmy award winning documentary on the ossuary for the details. ”

    Is this a Simcha Jakubovici production ?

  8. Uzziahu

    Reb Shmarya, whom I hold in highest esteem.
    Please allow me lachalok on your words today.
    a- Emmy awards, is on quality of the film , not authenticity of contents. So they cannot serve as a proffessional opinion.
    b- Mr S.J tends to serve somewhat sensationalist fare.
    True he does take the trouble of travelling to the 4 corners of the world in pursuit of his theories.
    But that’s all he proposes: theory. No study. No scholarship. He asks suggestive questions, in the process, megaleh tefach umekhasse tifchayim. No definite statement.
    In many ways, his productions are similar to Erich von Daniken who wrote Chariots of Fire.
    Although he is more engaging as he does not have the dry German tone totally devoid of humor.
    Apart from that, Mr SJ is a very nice and committed Jew active in the community , supporter of jewish institutions to whom I wish all the best of success.

  9. Uzziahu

    Oops! Chariots of Fire. in above posting should read:
    Chariots of the gods.

  10. He’s an old friend of mine.

    But I rely on the experts he brings, not on his opinion.

  11. Nachum

    It actually says Yaakov bar Yosef Achui D’Yeshu. Three very common names, first. Second, the order makes all the difference- that the last two words may have been added later.

  12. Nachum

    Yeshua, sorry. Even more common. It appears as early as the later books of Tanach.

  13. Except the rov of experts on ancient insciptions, patina, etc., hold it is authentic. As for the commonness of the names, one must remember that 50 CE is not 700 BCE, and that what you alledge to be common may have been in 700 BCE, but not in 50 CE.

    I think much of the Jewish opposition to this find rests on the foolish notion that Jesus did not exist and that the whole tale is a later fabrication. This view is common in haredi Orthodoxy.

  14. Shmuel

    Not sure if James, who took over the reins of the Jerusalem church on his brother’s death, was a real close friend and confidant of Rabban Gamliel, though if we are to believe Christian scripture (and who does?) we are informed in the book of Acts that when early Christians were brought for judgment of heresy before Rabban Gamliel, he allegedly ruled to the following effect: ‘If this is from heaven, we can’t stop it, and if from men, it will burn out on its own. So (meemah nafshach) leave them alone.’ Are you suggesting he took that light approach because he was best buddies with Jimmy?

  15. There is an old Jewish tradition that some members of the early church – peter and some say james – did “teshuva” and returned to normative rabbinic judism. The defense of James was offered by Rabban Gamilel before the Sanhedrin, which was trying James. If found guilty he would have been killed.

    Early christians and rabbinic Jews had a lot of interaction. Indeed, each attended the other’s synagogues. This situation later led to the bracha against minim, which was taken as a measure to separate the two groups.

    Perhaps friend is too strong a term, but enemies they certainly were not.

  16. Nachum

    I believe Paul was a talmid of Rabban Gamliel. The tradition doesn’t say they did teshuva, but that they were plants.

    Looking back, we can say that if Rabban Gamliel was right, then, indeed, Christianity was from Heaven (as the Rambam points out).

    I meant to say the names were common in 50, not 500 BC. Not to say that Jesus didn’t exist, of course.

  17. The tradition about Paul is different that the tradition about Peter and James.

  18. Shmuel

    Shmarya, please supply any sources for the fascinating idea that Peter and James became BTs and hooked up with a small kollel in Yerushalayim (or, in Peter’s case, Rome, where he was crucified upside down by the Romans. And, I assure you, not for preaching Rabbinic Judaism.)

    The rabbis will tell us anything. Everybody who ever differed with rabbis saw the light in the end and became a baal tshuvah. Sure, guy.

  19. Shmuel

    Nachum, yes, Paul describes himself as a disciple of Rabban Gamliel. See Acts 22:3. For the source of my reference above, see Acts 5:34–end. Sorry, didn’t mean to turn this blog into “Christian Scripture 101”, but hey, when the Holy Spirit moves through you…

  20. It’s printed in several different sefarim. Try Googling it.

    I don’t believe the BT spin. I think it is clear that the very early Jerusalem Church was made up of Jews who were shomrei Torah u’mitzvot, but who’s theology had deviatedd from the rabbinic norm. The debate then current was over the status of these people and their ideas. Most Jews did not enter into this debate – hence the need for the al haminim bracha.

    But 30 years before that point, only the David Berger’s of rabbinic Judaism would have cared about the “strange ideas” of the Church, or viewed it as anything other than a shul.

  21. Here’s why the ossuary is probably J’s brother’s –

    Of the thousands of ossuarys found and documented so far:

    2% have the name yakov (james)

    8 % have yosef

    2 % have jesus

    Prof. Camil Fuchs, head of the Dept. Of Statistics at TAU did a statistical analysis of this and related data. His anaysis shows that only 3 ossuaries from that time would have had the three names, making the probability that this is the ossuary of J’s brother James very high.

    Further, only 3 ossuaries are known to have the phrase “ahui ___”. One of those appears to be a broother of Hanina Ben Dosa, a leader of the hasidim who appears in Talmud as a holy man who works miracles. The other’s identity is unsure. J scholars have long noticed the apparent link between some of the major practices of hasidism (then) and what we know about J’s life and theology. This only makes the likelihood that the ossuary is the James’ stronger.

  22. Neo-Conservaguy

    “But 30 years before that point, only the David Berger’s of rabbinic Judaism would have cared about the “strange ideas” of the Church, or viewed it as anything other than a shul.”

    A ha, finally we get to the punch line!

  23. rebeljew


    The BAR has always held the same on authenticity. They have a horse in the race, so they cannot be considered objective. Be that as it may, Joe Nickell has an excellent examination and concludes that the inscription is fake, attacking the BAR position on scientific grounds. Based on its nonstandard placement and the fact that one expert claims to have seen the box in earlier years without the “achui D’Yeshua” part of the inscription, it is difficult to defend.

    But even if we could defend it and it turned out to be authentic, this does not determine that the box is the burial box of St. James. It indicates that it was made for someone named Yaakov, the son of someone named Yosef, and the brother of a prominent local character named Joshua. In the US this would be like finding a gravestone for Harold the son of Ed the brother of George. Even if we could show that Washington’s, Custer’s, Patton’s, or Bush’s relatives had these names, it would not prove anything about the gravestone. There are no other facts that we know about Jesus that could authenticate the St. James connection, since even the existence of the New Testament Jesus is far from a proven historical fact.

    Don’t get me wrong. the investigation is interesting. But there is no news here, and no one has switched sides recently that I know of.

  24. rebeljew


    I also disagree about the early church. It deviated in no known way from Rabinic Judaism, while it was still a Jewish movement. The deviation occurred later and the Pauline scriptures are also later. Until then, it was just a bunch of guys doing mivtzoyim, saying Yechi and deluding into thinking that their Rebbe had transcended death in a literal way (taking the traditional texts at face value). The NT is just “to Know and to Care” aged 2000 years.

  25. Der Kugelager

    Even if we could show that Washington’s, Custer’s, Patton’s, or Bush’s relatives had these names, it would not prove anything about the gravestone.

    Actually, RebelJew,
    We have to look at it this way:
    If they check the DNA of that Yankel ben Yosef and establish that he is kin of one deceased MM’SH, or of the dismissed Dayan soldier (who as a melekh doesn’t moychel al kevodoy, he wouldn’t shake hands with the IDF chief of staff) both reputed to be of Bais David, we can reinstate tomorrow, Sukkat Dovid Hanofelet !
    Isn’t it something? 🙂

  26. Paul Freedman

    There is no reason to believe that Jesus did not exist–the appearances of the Gospels and the history of the Church itself plus the scattered references in Josephus all point to some originating cause, a personality. We can reject extraordinary claims made on his behalf without rejecting that someone named Jesus lived: Brigham Young lived although we believe his torah is a fabrication; the Rebbe lived although only his Messianic followers accept that role; there is a very good circumstantial case that Jesus lived although all the bits of “evidence” have problems.

  27. Anonymous

    The references in Josephus are generally accepted to be later forgeries.

  28. Robert R. Smith

    Google Israeli acholar Schlomo Pines’ discovery of an Arabic Josephus. While the received Josephus text has passed through the hands of a Christian copyist who peppered it with theology, the Arabic version lacks the theology and makes an historian’s statement that simply situates Jesus in Judea, during the procuratorship of Pontius Pilate, who crucified him.

    Most scholars believe that Josephus did say something about Jesus. The Arabic version just might be the real deal of what Josephus really said.

  29. My personal theory is that the Jesus of the NT is a composite character, based primarily on the first century Jesus but also on other messianic aspirants. “yeshu” shows up in different places in the Talmud as the contemporary of sages who themselves were not contemporary with each other.

    Since the book of Acts records the conflict between Jewish messianists under James who observed mitzvot and Paul’s antinomianism, I don’t think it’s out of the question that some early followers of Jesus returned to normative Jewish practice. The stories about Paul being a plant by the rabbis to move Christianity away from Judaism, however, are not credible for a number of reasons.

    If I’m not mistaken, the same sources that allege that Peter returned to Judaism attribute the Nishmat Kol Chai prayer to him following his tshuvah. The person who composed Nishmat could not have been either a trinitarian or a believer in the incarnation, it is that strongly monotheistic.

  30. Markos Mountjoy

    Would anyone be interested in looking into a new view that the Hasmonean Empire was Daniel’s 4th kingdom of Iron and not the Roman Empire, and that the so-called delayed Second Coming of Christ happened in A.D. 70 according to which both Josephus and Tacitus make note?
    “Such prodigies had happened, as this nation, which is superstitious enough in its own way, would not agree to expiate by the ceremonies of the Roman religion, nor would they atone the gods by sacrifices and vows, as these used to do on the like occassions. Armies were seen to fight in the sky, and their armor looked of a bright light color, and the Temple shone with sudden flashes of fire out of the clouds. The doors of the Temple were opened on a sudden, and a voice greater than human was heard, that the gods were retiring, and at the same time there was a great motion perceived, as if they were going out of it, which some esteemed to be causes of terror. The greater part had a firm belief that it was contained in the old sacerdotal books, that at this very time the East would prevail, and that some that came out of Judea would obtain the empire of the world. . .” Josephus, Dissertation 3:5:13. I have written a book on this matter called “Time Oracle: Experience What Christians Believed in the First Place” In it I argue that the Second Coming happened forty years after Jesus left–as he promised, and the whole church thinks it was delayed. The book is available through Amazon.com.

    Markos Mountjoy

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